Heat radiating from a kitchen oven, the fragrance of cookie dough, of chopped walnuts and melting dark chocolate chips: thus begins many of my fondest childhood memories.
And it’s not only that chocolate is my greatest vice in life, perhaps even my greatest ‘sin.’ Figuratively. You know, I can romanticize a little. Some might even find the analogy appropriate, especially since I can gulp a pound at a time without an ounce of guilt.
And it doesn’t take me twelve hours to absorb a batch of cookies, even as I futilely attempt to make them last as long as possible. No, I’m not writing about confession, but artistry, the titillation of taste buds, memories and, above all else, you. (After all, who else would I expect to read this?)
Perhaps you can accurately gauge my excitement as I awaited the package of cookies to arrive. These were not ordinary cookies, some cheap excuse you find in the supermarket aisle that cost a dollar a pound, bland as porridge and desiccative as desert sand.
No, I’m certain most haven’t heard of the brave Glenn Minervini-Zick who blends tomatoes or lavender in cookies to be rewarded with tastes that are astounding and absolutely beautiful. And they are as healthy as cookies can be, organic ingredients, the fruit from local farmer’s markets. What’s more, few have experienced the pleasant tingle on their taste buds. Well yes, a local phenomenon with a nice little cache of national customers, but I say few because what are thousands compared to seven billion people?
Then early on a Wednesday afternoon, I see legs whisking past the living room window. I open the door to find the mailman placing a white box on the deck. For a second I ask myself, What is it? and even as I look at the box, the USPS man retrieves the rest of my mail from the box and places it in my hand with a smile.
I could hardly wait, nearly frantic to try them. I searched for something with which to open it, something with serrated edge but only found a pen. It would have to do and, the box opened, I found myself hindered by yet another white box immersed in biodegradable Styrofoam packing peanuts. (And Aviva called me “cookie monster.” Can you believe that?) Within the box was the sealed package, a baker’s dozen. Gold medal winners, Lavender Mint Shortbread, and Coco Carmelitas; and his double-gold, Almond Raspberry Ravioli.
The taste was a revelation, good and so unique that I just had to share them with a few friends. And one reaction made it entirely worthwhile. After a bight of the Lavender Mint Shortbread, Christiana smiled with sudden excitement. She pushed up on toe-tips, arms waving vigorously next to her ears and exclaimed, “Ohohoh! What is it? It tastes like Christmas!” If I were a baker, I doubt any other reaction could be more worthwhile; I only wish Glenn could have been there to see it.
But this is a triumph beyond making cookies, a true success story. He didn’t always make cookies for a living. In 2001 the software company, for which he was CFO was sold and he “softly” retired. It isn’t uncommon to hear of anyone quitting, even as it seems that a defeatist mentality has become ever more prevalent in recent years, but he proved his ingenuity rather than giving up the ghost; he took one look at his “bucket list” and trotted off to the local junior college to immerse himself in baking. Cookie manufacturing appealed to him because he didn’t have to get up at four a m to fill orders.
I’ve been in contact with Glenn the last few weeks and his correspondence via email has been helpful and nothing short of enthusiastic. I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions and have come to the conclusion that Zix Seasonal Sweets and Savories is just not about baking cookies, or making money; his purpose is to personally serve others and his success demonstrates the true power of human potential, that with a little creativity and greater energy, we also can follow in our Father’s footsteps and claim the “Cosmic Birthright” intended for all of us.
But this is how he describes it: “Baking cookies allows my “craft-person” to come out and provide an important balance to other aspects of my life. At the same time, marketing and selling cookies allows my more extroverted qualities of my personality to blossom and get some much needed exercise.
“It has been a big confidence builder for me. Who doesn’t like cookies! It has also helped me to hone skills such as listening and story telling. The ‘confidence’ tool is probably one of the largest assists from this cookie business. Selling cookies has forced me to step forward, to be comfortable in a lead role, and to find clarity about some parts of myself that have been fairly dormant in my life (up to now).”
In further questions, we explored his goals for the future, as well as past and present.
Q. Are there any questions about what you do that you’ve always wanted to answer, but you’ve never been asked?
A. How has your business developed? If it’s growing ‘organically’ what ‘doors’ have you not opened? Opened? Or about to open? I started out baking for friends; then I stepped out and sold them to stores; selling to stores (as a small cookie business) was not too satisfying so I turned to the web and word of mouth. The web and word of mouth work pretty well but I’m discovering I’m ready for more.
So I’m looking at making my cookies more available through a ‘cookie-mobile’ and a twitter account. I’m also looking at a cookie I’ve developed that is interesting, in fact award winning, and can be mass produced. As my confidence and view of the cookie world have expanded so have by personal goals for the cookie business and myself.
Q. On average, how many hours a day on average do you spend in the kitchen?
A. Right now I’m spending around 8 hrs. a day in my kitchen or doing work related to going my cookie business. During the holidays, I sleep in my kitchen!
Q. Would you ever consider the possibility of selling your cookies at local grocery stores, or better, organic food markets?
A. I sold my cookies in organic food markets and ‘high end’ grocery stores a few years ago. Being a small producer, it’s difficult to work with the margins offered by the markets. For the past year or so I’m selling direct to consumers, either on-line or word of mouth. I have a large following around the holidays, when I send out corporate and family cookie boxes around the country.
However, I’m developing a new product line that I believe can be mass produced while maintaining high quality and I am very keen on selling that product line into those two market segments along with on-line vendors (catalogs).
Q. If you had to choose a personal favorite, which would it be?
A. I’d have to choose the sweet ravioli cookie. I love the combination of fruit with nuts or cheese and I love that I’m able to eat local fruit in bite size cookies! And I must say, for what it’s worth, I agree.
The answer to this the next question, which I intentionally saved till last, happens to be my favorite. My initial conceit behind it was . .. . customer walks in and Glenn realizes, “Hey, that’s Arnold,” one of those minor curiosities that isn’t important but is fun to know. He gave me a very different answer than what I was expecting and I must confess I was pleased with it. One might imagine him to be cocky if they never spoke to him before, if only for a moment. More likely they would realize the answer sprung from my poor attempt at framing the question.
Q. Have you ever had any customers that inspired the realization: “Hey, this person is famous!”?
A. I just had a new customer say something similar. I was at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Awards Ceremony where I received several gold medals for my cookies. As one of the winners I had a tasting booth with my winning cookies for folks to sample. A woman came up to my booth and said, ‘Oh my god, it’s the cookie guy! I’ve been following you for a while in the press and I was wondering when I’d find you. Your cookies look so good.’ (She tries one, gives me a huge smile and takes one back to her husband. She came back for another taste a little while later).
He’s earned it and a lot more to come. “Taste and see . . .” ! You’ll thank me, you’ll thank him. And, even better, you’ll be thanking yourself.
Get the Cookies: http://www.zixtreats.com
It will look like this: The Sweet Path to Personal Growth